If one views the protest as a brand, then it’s already a great victory
This protest has no face, and it’s not because everyone is wearing a mask. The Balfour protest is orphaned of leadership, has no distinct speakers or leaders. In the place that brought the most Israelis together this summer, in a highly charged atmosphere, no new local leader was born. As opposed to the social justice protest of 2011, the 12th grade students’ draft denying letter, the Black Panthers or any other historical Israeli protest, the protest of 2020 has no Daphne Leif or Charlie Biton who has taken the reins, picked up the megaphone and marched to center stage.
And why is there no stage? Israel has never encountered such a consistent, resonant protest. And yet, it has no captain at the helm. It is true that it is made up of very different factions, an unfolding event that cuts across age, previous occupation or social class, but how is it possible that not even a single lead spokesperson has come forth?
Maybe that is the real story of this summer’s protest. If you are protesting – you’re an anarchist. And if you’re an anarchist – you’re left-wing. And if you’re left-wing – you’re illegitimate. And when you’re illegitimate you can be smeared on Twitter, insulted on Facebook, ambushed by some sort of lie on some sort of fake news. Leadership of a protest such as this, in a period such as this, at a time such as this, may come at too high a price. This job is utterly thankless.
If one views the protest as a brand, then it’s already a great victory. At the end of the day, every brand aspires to be stronger and bigger than whoever is driving it, and this is especially true in a situation where a face is a burden, at a time when any face that is positive for a moment is liable to be forever smashed within five minutes.
Also, none of the spectators on the sidelines, in the space between Yair Lapid and the rest of the world and the Knesset plenum, has a good reason to claim sponsorship of the events on Balfour Street. The protest carnival is working well as it is, and there is no need for even a single cheerleader. And even if there were, they would be wise to stick to their present-absent status, cash in on the rather satisfactory data revealed in a random poll, and wait on the sidelines for developments. And developments are afoot.